Match Play Competition
The Match Play round is a series of 18 separate mini contests between two sides (players or teams). The scoring is based on the number of holes² that are won during the round. Each hole can be “won”, “lost” or “halved”.
The number of strokes a side takes to win a hole is irrelevant, the par value of the hole is ignored. The side with the lowest score for the hole (gross or net) wins the hole and is awarded one point. It is considered to be “1 up”. The side with the higher score loses a hole and one point. It is considered to be “1 down”. If the scores of both sides are equal the hole is “halved” and no side is awarded any points.
The Final Score
At the end of the round, the side with the most points (more won holes than the other) is declared the winner. If the match is tied, it is said to be “all square” (AS or A/S).
Match Play competitions do not have to go the full 18 holes. If one side achieves an insurmountable lead the match ends early. For example, if one side has a 6-hole lead (6up) after 13 holes, it means there is no way the second side can win and the match is over. The final score is stated as a function of the margin of victory, so it is stated and “6 & 5”, meaning the winner has a 6-hole lead with only 5 holes remaining.
All possible final scores are presented in green fields of the table below:
Playing Handicap in Match Play
In a handicap Match Play the better side (player or team with the lower handicap) plays at scratch. The weaker side (player or team with the higher handicap) gets his handicap strokes by subtracting the lower playing handicap from the higher.
Rules of handicapping in Match Play and useful calculator is available here: Handicap Strokes in Match Play.
The weaker side allocates the handicap strokes for the most difficult holes in order of the difficulty, starting from the stroke index 1. For example, if there are 21 handicap strokes, the side gets two additional strokes on three most difficult holes (SI 1, 2 and 3) and a single stroke on the rest of the holes (SI from 4 to 18).
The Match Play score calculation is descripted on next page.
The universal match play calculator computing the result of a round of golf played on any course in Match Play format is available here:
Match Play score calculator
update: September 2022